Living about the time of the founders of Buddhism and Jainism, Ajita Kesakambali was one of the earliest people in recorded history to deny the existence of gods, spirits, souls, a non-material realm, the afterlife, reincarnation, absolute moral values, and karma. He was a major influence on the Indian school of philosophy known as Carvaka.
Though he denied the existence of absolute morals, he does not seem to have abused people or even sought his own pleasure, for he was an ascetic: he chose to be abstinent from “worldly pleasures” like alcohol and sex.
I often wonder what it must have been like to be just about the only person on the planet who didn’t buy into superstitious nonsense. Ajita must have felt terribly alone. What did he think of his fellow human beings? What did he try to do with his life?
We will never know the details of his life and philosophy. He may have been a skilled debater because he was known as “the unconquered.” Also, he seems to have had contempt for his colleagues:
Ideas like generosity are the concepts of a stupid person. He who speaks of their existence, his words are empty and confused; a cry of desperation.1
Sounds like Pat Condell to me!
If you think it’s difficult to “come out” as a materialist or an atheist today, imagine what it must have been like in the 6th century BCE! If nothing else, Ajita was surely a courageous man.
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